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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    ARTISTIC    LIFE
deplorably backward. For the human form is made subservient to the forms of nature. If there Is any appreciation of the female human form as such5 we see no traces of it in painting. Ku K'aichih's and Ch'iu Shihchou's female forms suggest, not the beauties of their bodies but the lines of the winds and the waves. For this worship of the human body, especially of the female body, seems to me to be the most singular characteristic of Western art. The most singular contrast between Chinese and Western art is the difference in the source of inspiration, which is nature itself for the East and the female form for the West. Nothing strikes a Chinese mind as being more grotesque than that a female figure should be labelled "Contemplation59 or that a nude bathing girl should be made to represent "September Morn/9 To-day many Chinese are atill unable to reconcile themselves to the fact that Western civilization requires actual living "models/5 stripped and placed before one's eyes3 to be stared at daily for two hours at a time, before one can learn even the first essentials of painting. Of course there are also many Westerners who are willing only to hang Whistler's "My Mother" above their mantelpiece, and who do not dare so much as contemplate a female figure called "Contemplation." There is still to-day a large proportion of English and American society who apologize for French pictures in their flats by saying that the room is rented furnished, and who do not know what to do with a Viennese porcelain doll that some of their friends have presented them for Christmas. They generally banish the whole topic from a conversation by calling these things "art/* and the ones who made then "crazy artists." Nevertheless, the fact remains that orthodox Western painting is Dionysian in its origin and inspiration, and that the Western painter seems unable to see anything without a naked, or nearly naked, human body in it. Whereas the Chinese painter symbolizes spring by a fat and well-shaped partridge, the Western painter symbolizes it by a dancing nymph with a faun chasing after her. And whereas the Chinese painter can delight in the fine lines of a cicada's wings and in the full limbs of the cricket, the grasshopper and the frog, and the Chinese scholar can daily contemplate such pictures on his wall with continual delight* the Western painter